Saturday, November 19, 2016

Flashlight Revelations (feat. Jonathan McReynolds' "Christ Representers")

I was using the flashlight feature on my Samsung Galaxy S7 the other day, and I accidentally turned it towards myself. I was momentarily blinded by its light, and I thought, how can something so little give off so much light? As my eyes adjusted, I heard three things in my spirit:

1. Little seasons require strong faith.
2. The spotlight is necessary.
3. Leave the light on.

Mustard-Seed Seasons

Little seasons require strong faith. At surface level, that seemed simple. After I sat with it for awhile, though, I realized it was really deep. Sometimes God allows us to have "little" seasons; a "little" role, a "little" job, a "little" position, to test us. Seasons where we have little to no money, little to no friends, little to no support, little to no opportunities can cause us to lose faith. In Matthew 17:20, Jesus says: "I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you" (NIV). If you find yourself in a "little" season and wonder why the devil is fighting you so hard, it's because he sees your potential.

Satan always attacks in the "little" season when we're most vulnerable because he knows what we're capable of. We may be little, but we serve a big God who has placed extraordinary gifts inside of us. Satan knows how powerful our gifts are and the mountains our faith can move, so he tries to make the mountain we're facing seem bigger than it actually is in order to thwart God's plan for our lives. He finds us at our smallest and whispers nothings in our ears: 'You are nothing. You'll never have anything, you'll never amount to anything.' He encourages us to feel sorry for ourselves because he knows that if he can keep us down, he can keep us from walking in our purpose. If we quit in the little season, we're making the enemy's job easier. God tests us in the little season to make sure we're prepared for where He takes us next.

In The Spotlight

The second nugget God gave me was 'The spotlight is necessary.' It didn't make sense to me at first, but then I started thinking about the purpose of a spotlight, and suddenly, it clicked. In theater, a spotlight is a bright light shone on one or more characters throughout a play. It follows them and highlights their actions. The spotlight bares all. It causes the audience to focus solely on the character(s) under it and brings them to the forefront of the play. Once it is on them, there is nowhere to hide. Sometimes, especially in the "little" seasons, we may feel like God is far away and think He can't hear us. That's not true. During that time, His spotlight is on you. The spotlight works two ways: God uses it to follow you, to watch you move to see how you react to what life throws your way. If you keep the faith and trust Him in the little place, He'll elevate you to the next level. God can see everything about you. In the spotlight, He'll reveal the dark spots--things, people, habits, etc.--in your life that need to leave the scene before you begin the next act. The spotlight forces us to lay those things bare because God can't heal what we don't reveal. The spotlight is not meant to cause stage fright, but rather to show us the areas in which we need to improve to bring us closer to God.

"We Are Christ Representers"

The third point is, in my opinion, the most profound: 'Leave the light on'. Even in the little season, it is important for us to leave the light on. In our Christian walk, we will undoubtedly encounter dark spots, bumps in the road, and obstacles that seem impossible to overcome. As I mentioned before, God uses the little season to prepare us for elevation. All too often, when He elevates us, when we get comfortable, we tend to hide the fact that we had to go through a lot to get to where we are because we are ashamed of our dark spots. Those dark spots are our testimony.

I'm reminded of a song by gospel artist Jonathan McReynolds called "Christ Representers" (hear it on his GRAMMY-nominated album Life Music: Stage Two here) that borrows from Matthew chapter 5. The song says, "We're the light of the world, we're a city on a hill / And we're tellin' everybody that Jesus is real." As Christians, we are supposed to live and lead by example. If we tell people that Jesus is real without evidence to back it up, how can we expect them to believe us? Matthew 5:14-15 reads:

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. (NIV)

And as Jonathan's song reminds us:

          We're not your average boys and girls

          There's something very special on our ID

          And what I'm worth to the world

          It's way bigger than me

Your responsibilities as a Christian, as a representative of Christ, expand beyond just yourself. God brought you to where you are. You owe it to Him to celebrate and share where He brought you from. Your dark spots are nothing to be ashamed of. They are a part of who you are, and a testament to God's grace and mercy. They may help someone else who is struggling.

Your light will make room for you. Before you know it, your light will shine so brightly in the "little" place that you will have no choice but to be elevated to higher ground, not because of how great YOU are, but because of the Light that lives within. Shine your light wherever you go, even in the "little" season, because, as author Marianne Williamson so eloquently put it in her book, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles" (read it here):

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Driving Lessons (Inspired by Travis Greene)

Want to learn how to drive? It's easy: Don't. This was Gospel artist and pastor Travis Greene's message on October 16, 2016, the third sermon in his series "Fall In Love" (aptly titled for this season). The series focuses on how to grow in the Christian walk and emphasizes that no matter how many times we fall, God is always there to catch us. The full title of the sermon was "Fall in Love, Part 3: Hands Off His Will." Still wondering how this relates to driving? Let me explain. Pastor Greene's sermon came from 2 Samuel (listen to his message here) and I decided to add a Proverbs perspective to it. It really resonated with me, and I hope it blesses you as well. These are a few take-away points I got from the message, along with some musings of my own.

If you find yourself becoming too wrapped up in something, it may be necessary to step back and check your motives. Make sure you're doing it for the right reasons. Are you motivated by a calling, a genuine love and appreciation for the thing? Does it give you a sense of fulfillment, or are you doing it for others' approval, acceptance, and validation? Are you in it for money, fame, recognition and/or material gain? First, ask yourself if God is pleased with what you're doing, and then take it a step further and ponder this: If God is the ONLY one who likes what I do, will I still do it? If your answer is yes, you've found your calling.

God should always be in the driver's seat of your life. If you're in a season where everything seems to be falling apart around you, it's probably because you're trying to drive. All too often, our plans cause us to veer off God's course for our lives. Sometimes God wants to take us in an entirely different direction than where we want to go. This causes us to become uncomfortable, and we start to doubt or downplay the gifts that God has placed in us. Fear creeps in, and we complain, "God, this is not cool. Everybody else is doing x, y, and z..." That's just it. Never measure your accomplishments in comparison to everybody else's. You're not 'everybody else.' You're cut from a different cloth. You are a child of God, and He has created you for a specific purpose. Never question Him. Never try to tell Him when and how to move. He knows what He's doing. You may not understand it right now, but keep in mind that God knew the ending of your story before it even began.

It might look like everybody else has it all together, but there is a reason God is shifting gears in your life. He could be protecting you from hurt, harm, and danger, saving you from heartache, and maybe even saving you from yourself. There is safety in His will. Sometimes a change of direction is necessary--& sometimes He creates a new lane altogether, a new lane that has been custom made for you, which may seem intimidating at first glance. Purpose is usually discovered in uncomfortable places. God takes us to those uncomfortable places to reveal Himself to us, so that we can see where we need to improve. It is here that He shows us how to use our fall--our faults, shortcomings, and imperfections--to glorify Him. It is here that He pushes us out of our comfort zone and into our destiny.

In sum, God is God. He anticipates our falls and is there to catch us even when we think we don't need Him to, when we think we can handle it on our own. We may think we know what we want, but God knows what we need. As Pastor Greene pointed out in his message, "The more you see God, the more you'll see you." In order to discover your purpose, to see God work in your life, you have to take your hands off His wheel and submit to His will. As scary as it may seem, even if you don't know what direction the car is headed in, trust God's plan for your life. He'll never steer you wrong.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. -Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)

Travis Greene & his wife Jackie are doing a new kind of Kingdom building at their church, Forward City, in Columbia, SC in an effort to win young souls for Christ. To learn more about Pastor Greene and the Forward City family, click here. Check out Greene's album, "The Hill," which includes his Grammy-nominated hit, "Intentional," by clicking here.